Ante Post Picks for the 2020 Cheltenham Festival
The 2020 Cheltenham Festival will soon be upon us and that means the best jumps horses in training competing in the Cotswolds.
As Cheltenham ante post betting includes 28 races spread over 4 days, there is plenty for punters for mull over before the Festival starts on Tuesday, 10 March. By taking an early price, you may get better odds than waiting for the day.
In celebration of Cheltenham, here are our ante post picks for the Festival from the early closing races.
Captain Guinness – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
There is lots of hype surrounding the two Joe and Marie Donnelly owned horses, Shishkin and Asterion Forlonge, and that’s reflected in the betting on the Grade 1 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle which opens the Festival. However, a value each-way pick against this obvious strong hand is Henry De Bromhead’s Captain Guinness.
After winning on racecourse debut in a Naas maiden hurdle, he ran a huge race in defeat when making the well-regarded JP McManus owned Andy Dufresne work to land the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer at Punchestown in January. It was a big run from Captain Guinness.
What he lacks in experience is more than compensated for in the 5-year-old Arakan gelding’s potential. Captain Guinness looks a value each-way bet at 14/1 ante post for the Supreme.
Notebook – Arkle Challenge Trophy
De Bromhead also has a leading contender to win the Grade 1 Arkle for novice chasers on the opening day at Cheltenham in Notebook, who is unbeaten over fences. He has scored twice at highest level around Leopardstown for owners Gigginstown House Stud.
As the clear best of the raiders from the Emerald Isle and winner of the Irish Arkle, Notebook looks a worthy favourite for the English equivalent. It’s hard to see him being his current ante post price of 3/1 on the day come the Festival, so backing him to land a Grade 1 hat-trick and five-timer for the season is advised now.
Darver Star – Champion Hurdle
The feature race on day one, the Grade 1 Champion Hurdle, has a wide-open look to it. On that basis, and given Gavin Cromwell trained the winner of last year’s renewal in the ill-fated Espoir D’Allen, Darver Star looks overpriced having made Honeysuckle pull out all the stops to win at Leopardstown.
Injuries, setbacks and loss of form have ruled out or dampened enthusiasm for contenders including Buveur D’Air, Fusil Raffles, Saldier and Sharjah. A standout 22/1 with William Hill looks a great each-way bet if Darver Star reproduces his Irish Champion Hurdle display at Cheltenham.
Honeysuckle – Mares’ Hurdle
There’s a potential heavyweight clash between Benie Des Dieux and Honeysuckle in the Grade 1 Mares’ Hurdle over 2m 4f at the Festival. Connections of the younger mare, who is also trained by De Bromhead, are leaning towards this race rather than the Champion Hurdle.
Honeysuckle has excelled over the trip in winning Grade 1s at Fairyhouse. She has also proved she handles racing left-handed with that Leopardstown success last time. As Honeysuckle retains the greater scope for further progress, she has to be preferred to Benie Des Dieux at 15/8.
Champagne Classic – National Hunt Chase
Gordon Elliott looks set to drop former Cheltenham Festival winner Champagne Classic down in grade but up in trip for the National Hunt Chase. The 3m 6f Grade 2 contest should suit the 9-year-old Gigginstown owned Stowaway gelding.
Main market rival and fellow Irish raider Carefully Selected didn’t convince with his jumping when last in action. That gives Champagne Classic, who has placed in the grade and at the highest level besides winning twice over fences, claims of winning this amateur riders’ event at 5/1.
Envoi Allen – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
It’s very hard to oppose Envoi Allen for the 2m 5f Grade 1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, because he is unbeaten. The form of his Festival victory in the Champion Bumper last season is incredibly strong.
Trained by Elliott for owners Cheveley Park Stud, Envoi Allen could well be odds-on come Ladies Day at Cheltenham. Taking his ante post price is advised with plans finalised and him heading there a fresh horse.
Pym – RSA Chase
While stable companion Champ heads the betting, Pym won over the RSA Chase course and distance earlier in the season for trainer Nicky Henderson. He also shares the same owner as Altior, Patricia Pugh, and – while this 3m Grade 1 contest demands more – he is a much bigger price.
Connections think the world of Champ, but all hasn’t gone to plan. On that basis, Pym looks well worth an each-way punt at best ante post odds of 20/1 for Cheltenham glory.
Defi Du Seuil – Queen Mother Champion Chase
With Altior already joining the most known horses in the Festival’s history, he remains a leading contender for a third Queen Mother Champion Chase crown but there is a young pretender who also knows plenty about winning around Cheltenham. That is Defi Du Seuil, quite possibly the best two-miler Philip Hobbs has ever trained.
As a dual Festival scorer himself, this 7-year-old by Voix Du Nord is in a very competitive renewal this year. However, it’s clear Defi Du Seuil is still improving with his races – something Altior is much less open to at the age of 10.
Despite Dublin Chase victor Chacun Pour Soi coming over from Ireland, that rival has no form at Cheltenham. Defi Du Seuil is worth siding with in what looks the race of this year’s Festival at 9/4.
Itchy Feet – Marsh Novices’ Chase
Last year’s Supreme third Itchy Feet is making up into a very smart chaser and gave trainer Olly Murphy a maiden Grade 1 success when winning the Scilly Isles at Sandown last time out. That was just his second start over fences and he beat some very useful sorts indeed.
The Sandown success seemingly punched his ticket to the 2m 4f Marsh Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham with Itchy Feet cut into 7/1 second-favourite behind Faugheen. This beloved veteran would be a popular winner, but betting isn’t about sentiment. Itchy feet is half Faugheen’s age and better value.
Min – Ryanair Chase
There’s a sense of unfinished business about Min. He has often been the bridesmaid at past Festivals, twice chasing home Altior in the Supreme and Champion Chase. If trainer Willie Mullins and owners Rich and Susannah Ricci finally step him up to his optimum trip and go for the Ryanair Chase, then he has to be fancied strongly.
This is because Min has arguably performed best over 2m 4f. He has twice won the John Durkan at Punchestown, but has Grade 1 success going left-handed under his belt too after scoring in the Melling Chase at Aintree last season. Min is 4/1 market leader in the ante post betting on the Ryanair.
Summerville Boy – Stayers’ Hurdle
But for a couple of mistakes over the final two flights, Summerville Boy could really have given Paisley Park a race in the Cleeve over the same course and distance as the Stayers’ Hurdle. Trained by Tom George, this horse looks to have reinvented himself as a staying hurdler.
Summerville Boy won the Supreme on heavy ground a couple of years ago at Cheltenham. He has stayed the extra mile just fine and the 10/1 price available ante post is better value than backing Paisley Park to win, because the favourite is odds-on.
Wolf Prince – Triumph Hurdle
He could end up in the Fred Winter, but Wolf Prince was staying on well and finishing fast when runner-up in the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown last time out. That means he would be well worth his place in the Triumph, another 4-year-olds only race at elite level.
It’s perhaps this event more than any other that is difficult for punters to get a handle on with unexposed juveniles turning up and pulling off shocks at big prices. Wolf Prince shouldn’t be 33/1 in the ante post betting on the Triumph Hurdle, based on the way he shaped at the Dublin Racing Festival.
Thyme Hill – Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
Hobbs has claims of a big race double at Cheltenham thanks to Thyme Hill. Unbeaten since switching to hurdles, last year’s Champion Bumper third has progressed to win the Grade 1 Challow at Newbury and confirm himself a leading contender for the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham.
Thyme Hill has added valuable course experience to his CV by winning a Grade 2 Ballymore trial around Prestbury Park too. He is a worthy 5/1 market leader for the 3m Grade 1 novice hurdle.
Delta Work – Cheltenham Gold Cup
In the blue riband event, Delta Work has won back-to-back Grade 1 races en route to the Gold Cup. Third in the RSA at the Festival last year, he won the Pertemps Final over hurdles in 2018.
Delta Work genuinely looks like Elliott and Gigginstown’s best prospect of winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup since Don Cossack. This is ultra-competitive but he’s still the value bet at 6/1.